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Exposing to the right with raw footage


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I am trying to get in the habit of exposing to the right with my 5D Mark III raw footage. But how far to the right?


Below is a contact sheet made up of screen grabs I've taken in Resolve from untouched DNGs. I set the exposure for the first image using the false color function on my SmallHD monitor (which works great for exposing H264/AVCHD footage, but here it actually looks quite underexposed) and then I upped the exposure in one stop increments.


I am hoping that someone more experienced with raw footage than I can give me an idea of which of these would contain the most recoverable data (click to enlarge image):


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Suggest using the ML raw scopes it provides for ETTR. Otherwise you're looking at a camera jpeg processed mangled feed that doesn't tell you what your raw really contains.

Depending on the color of light your shooting under the other RGB channels are multiplied out to get you your white balance, that's whats really under the bulls**t color temperature / tint sliders.

So the more you ETTR and risk clipping any of the channels depending on the color of your light source the other 'weaker' channels are dragged up along with the noise.

The well abused term 'recovering' highlights is bulls**t, if you clip a channel its clipped, I think many use the term because in reality you have say a 7 'stop' or greater source and trying to view it through a 5 'stop' sRGB / rec709 gamma curve.

The data is there as long as we don't clip a channel, it doesn't need recovering, just massaging into the limited viewing window.

If we do clip a channel then very possibly some sort of highlight handling strategy is required whether that's clip to white, fudge to neutral grey which in turn looses the specular higjlights or try blending from other channels.
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It depends on what part of the image is most important to you. In the +2 stops histogram there seems to be steep clipping going on in the higlights - red channel. Probably you won't be able to recover all of the highlights with those settings. If those highlights are crucial, then i'd say in this case +1.5 stops would be the max. It's easier to recover details from dark parts / shadows in general. Depends on the sensor, the Sony/Toshiba-sensors can do this extremely well for example. Canon sensors show more artifacts when recovering shadows, still you can get more out of clipped shadows then out of clipped highlights.

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Edit: re-read my post & realised i hadn't expressed myself well!


ETTR for ML Raw is more about getting a cleaner image than getting more DR - well it is on the 60D.


I've found that putting Zebras to 95% & getting a reading of E-0.4 on the ML Raw Histogram is a good choice (see video below).

If you don't use the ML tools then its just trial & error till you get it right.



So, you will sometimes clip your highlights & you've got to decide how much. 

You can recover things to a certain extent, but RAW isn't a miracle worker & ETTR is more about image quality than DR.


E-0.4 on ML RAW Histogram is the best answer

(NB. Nightly builds have moved away from RGB Raw Histogram, but you can use ETTR module to give you a reading, but don't let it mess with your settings by actually using the Auto ETTR function!).

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I was under the impression (& experience with ML hack has shown me this) that ETTR was partly about getting a cleaner image out of ML RAW. I've found that putting Zebras to 95% & getting a reading of -0.4 on the Raw Histogram is a good balance (can be a juggling game, so be flexible).

Also, if you clip something, then you've clipped it.
So you've got to decide & personally i would clip a highlight slightly, because that's what i feel is normal. 
You can recover things to a certain extent, but RAW isn't a miracle worker - however it can help you have more choices.
DR in RAW is all about giving you more range/stops/steps between absolute Black & White.
Its not about curing badly filmed footage - not that i'd expect that from you.


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